The Disconnect Between Front-Line Agents and Call Center Management
We have all had frustrating customer experiences; even those of us who understand the contact center industry and have more insight into why problems are occurring. (Perhaps that’s why it’s even more frustrating for us.) In this era of ever-more-demanding customers and shrinking profit margins, more and more businesses are evaluating the quality of the customer service they provide and doing “post-mortems” of previous years’ operations.
After doing this soul-searching, many contact centers find there is a strong disconnect between the quality of the customer service they intend to provide in their goals and mission statements and the actual quality of customer service their customers are getting (and complaining about). Somewhere, the lines of communication are broken, and what has been crafted in theory isn’t being put into practice.
Call Center IQ’s Brian Cantor notes that, “when thinking about what spurred so much of my frustration [with customer experiences], I realized that it was not simply the business’ failure to give me what I wanted. It was the agent’s failure to comprehend that he was supposed to be giving me what I wanted. Instead of simply telling the agent what went wrong, what I needed to make it right and waiting for him to do so, I have wasted countless hours informing agents of their duties as call center agents.”
One of the major breaks in communication is likely between call center managers and the agents on the front line. The agents probably aren’t involved in crafting the mission statements, and if they read the list of goals, it was on their first day when they were trying to absorb a lot of material. That said, contact center agents are probably getting a lot of misinformation from managers, as well. Cantor notes that there are some common mistakes that managers make when trying to engage agents.
Who’s the boss? Contact center agents may approach their jobs believing that their supervisor or manager is their boss. This isn’t really true: the customer is the boss of every interaction and every customer relationship. It’s important for agents to realize this.
Emphasizing the wrong metrics. Many contact center agents may believe that it’s their job to simply keep average handle time low, and are therefore rushing the customer off the phone. This simply doesn’t make sense: it damages the customer relationship and usually results in the customer calling back. It’s the manager’s job to emphasize quality over speed. Explain the value of first-call resolution over average handle time.
Too much adherence to script or policy. In the context of solving a customer’s problem, sticking too religiously to a script or a set of operations policies can seriously damage a customer relationship. Agents will do a better job if they know they have some autonomy in solving the customers’ problems.
Not asking for agents’ input. Agents know your customers better than anyone else: better than the managers, better than the supervisors and far better than those in the executive suite. They know how customers think and respond, they know what pleases them and they know what gets the best results. Involve them in every step of planning and strategizing when it comes to customer-facing operations.
If you believe that the purpose of the contact center’s existence is to delight, retain and win customers, then you need to communicate this fact to the agents. What they do or say on the phone with live customers is what will really make or break the business. Ensure they are truly representing the organization at large.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi